Spark of Change: TP Business Insights Lab’s Notes on the Electric Utilities Sector
Strategic Insights

TP Business Insights Lab’s Notes on the Electric Utilities Sector

Marina Netto - 01.26.2021

At the TP Business Insights Lab, we cover many sectors around the world that have gone through significant disruption and transformation. As advocates of insights and in-depth research, the TP Business Insights Lab aims to help brands and businesses understand changing behaviors across countries, generations, and sectors. Today, we set our sights on a sector that is currently requiring a spark: Electric Utilities.

Watt is Happening in Electric Utilities?

Customer experience is the focal point of the TP Business Insights Lab’s research, and we believe in the importance of putting ourselves in the shoes of consumers globally. It also helps that most of the time, as consumers ourselves—we experience firsthand what we study. Personally, after having moved from a country with a monopoly for B2C electric power, I can share that the consumer experience tends to “hertz” (pun intended!) I had to put so much effort into handling inquiries across two countries, and I found finding the contact information for my channel of choice difficult. At the back of my mind, I compared the experience in this sector to other industries. As soon as I found a viable option for an alternative involving smart, green, and renewable energy, I changed providers. I am not alone in changing from a passive customer to an active participant seeking environmental and cost-effective alternatives—according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, customers in the United States are looking for providers that can include eco-friendly solutions and green initiatives to their list of services. Moreover, during the pandemic, I have searched for even greater control, speed, and convenience regarding my bills and ways to lower consumption such as energy-management devices, apps, energy-efficient appliances, and downright savings such as lowering the thermostat. 

The TP Business Insights Lab has studied the Electric Utilities sector for the last seven years, and our Global Survey has shown that Electric Utilities consumers have the lowest Brand Satisfaction and Advocacy across 18 industries. Loyalty, on the other hand, tends to be average given that in many countries, there is less competition because of the regulated nature of the business. To put into perspective, Advocacy for Electric Utility recently was 5%, while for Online Retailers, this score was 43%.

Even more significant is the room for improvement for the 60% of consumers in the last year that contacted their chosen electricity supplier. Interesting to note that the contact rate varies considerably by country, with a high of 76% for Brazil, to an average value of 58% in the US, and a lower contact rate of 50% for Germany and Netherlands. Electric Utilities is a sector with a broad customer base and fewer digital natives, and this needs to be kept in mind. 67% stated they used Voice+IVR, followed by 25% for Email, and 12% for chat with live agent. 

As industries and sectors relentlessly pursue more ways to utilize technology and innovation to better the overall customer experience, the Electric Utilities sector continues to keep up with the pace. Forbes took notice of five companies in the sector that have begun transformations to better serve their customers, including the addition of digital channels such as self-service and mobile apps in their customer service. At the TP Business Insights Lab, we have seen companies accelerate the offer of digital channels and chatbots globally over the years and consumers’ adoption increase. It is remarkable that in one year alone, we saw a 4% increase in terms of volume of contacts in this sector globally. Not surprising to also see a high number of consumers (20%) who globally stated that they are willing to try a virtual assistant option for customer service.

Another observation is that the sector has a below average number of consumers posting about customer service on social media platforms. However, we have seen growth in this metric, as 15% of customers have now used this channel. In my opinion, this is probably not a good thing given the high probability of negative posts.

With all that is taking place in Electric Utilities, it’s no surprise that we had more companies reaching out to us to ask questions about the changes and the current trends in channel usage, mobile app adoption, and consumer perception. Moreover, the TP Business Insights Lab has also received a surge in questions regarding channel trends and changes in consumer behavior in countries, regardless of sector. One company initiated a significant discussion when it stated that it needed to behave like an online retailer, and that was a powerful change since it had been a monopoly.

Much has changed over the last years in the electricity market, and while Electric Utilities globally had been more insulated from disruption, we see deregulation, renewables, niche players, and new entrants altering the playing field in some countries. The end result is a jolt to the system, and more power to the consumers.

The TP Business Insights Lab is passionate about empowering clients and helping them get a glimpse of how their customers behave, their changing preferences, and increasing needs. Understanding customer behavior is just a step away—contact us to learn how to begin, or know more about your customers by downloading a free white paper!

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